A library director in Poplar Bluffs, Missouri, stirred up more than a witches' brew when she allegedly disciplined an assistant for refusing to participate in Harry Potter Night--she conjured up the U.S. Constitution!
She also summoned several lawsuits, including one filed in federal court and backed by the ACLU (http://www.aolcdn.com/tmz_documents/0528_harry_potter.pdf ) against the library director, the library, and the city, charging violation of state employment laws and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and claimed loss of income, pain and suffering, emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment, and violation of constitutional rights.
The library had planned a Harry Potter Night on July 20, 2007, outside of normal library hours to coincide with the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (see SBT http://hr.blr.com/hrstrangebuttrue.aspx?id=76008 ) where library staff would dress like witches and wizards.
When the part-time library assistant was asked to participate, she went to her direct supervisor and asked to be excused because, she said, her sincerely held beliefs as a member of the Southern Baptist Church did not allow her to promote the occult or witchcraft, especially to children. She said she volunteered to work in the main room during those hours, but her supervisor said that sufficient staff was already available.
According to the lawsuit, when the library director heard the story, she called in the assistant and told her that she must work on the event, but she could be "behind the scenes," so members of her church wouldn't see her. When the assistant again refused, the director "belittled her religious beliefs" and told her that she must accept being suspended for 10 days without pay for her refusal to participate, the lawsuit alleges.
The assistant said that when she returned, she found her hours were reduced and that she had new, physical duties, such as stocking high shelves from a ladder, that weren't in the job description for Library Assistant II.
The assistant said she suffered medical problems from the lifting and stretching, and her physician suggested she leave the job, but she stayed, saying she hoped that things would improve as the incident was forgotten.
When the assistant passed out at work, her doctor insisted she quit. She did, and then filed suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, saying she had suffered retaliation and religious discrimination in the workplace for sincerely held beliefs.
Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri has filed charges for the assistant in federal court charging violation of her civil rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and stating that "government employers must respect individuals' religious beliefs," the Associated Press reports.
As always, we will keep you posted.
Sources: AP and TMZ